Journey to my Birthplace: New Orleans

I was born in and lived the first 10 years of my life in New Orleans, on the Westbank in Harvey. Aside from one family trip back when I was 13, I hadn’t made it back since then. This year the wedding of my good friend from before we moved gave me the perfect excuse to reconnect with my roots.

My Adventures in New Orleans

New Orleans was not only my birthplace, but it was the place where I first became inspired by and bewitched with art. Some of my earliest memories of the city involve watching people paint, draw, and perform in the Quarter and being amazed by the massive float installations being constructed at Mardi Gras World.

The arts and culture played such a huge part in me becoming who I am today. I took a bunch of photos on my trip, got so inspired, and, as I stated when I did my post on the trip to Washington DC, I’m writing this so I can remember the inspiration I felt being there and an easier way to browse my photos.

Seeing everyone’s Mardi Gras posts inspired me to take a little time to reflect on my trip and share some of my moments with you.

Sharing my Sights

Here’s a collection of some of the photos I captured during my visit and stories about where I went.

Magazine Street

On my first full day there, I wanted to go see some things before I had to start getting ready for my friend’s wedding. Off the top of my head, I could really only think of going to the French Quarter.

Luckily, I was staying with native WestBanker and my best friend in kindergarten, Jamie and her hubby, Neil. They were quick to warn me how the traffic may cause issues with my restricted time-frame, then Neil suggested we go Magazine Street and I am so glad he did!

This was on my map of potential things to check out, but with minor understanding of what was there, it was basically a back-burner quest. With Neil & Jamie’s referral and encouragement, I got a chance to see browse this awesome little street, full of art studios, curio shops, and antiques galore.

Local Artist Lift-Up
Simon of New Orleans

I distinctly remember the bold aesthetic of his signs all over the Quarter when I was growing up here. It was so cool to meet the man behind the signage in his alley studio! Simon was incredibly sweet and friendly. Upon my telling him that I had moved away in ’97, he gave me a “Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?” magnet.

Becky Fos

This gallery was a beautiful space and Becky Fos’s work shows an amazing use of color and palette knife techniques. Really gorgeous work!

Miette

This was probably my favorite store on the street. Super fun, colorful, and full of handmade items from local artists and artisans. I picked up a Mad Darling candle and a terrarium necklace by Faerie Things at this shop, and passed up on some really cool body glitter by Elektra Cosmetics.

Additionally, they told us that upstairs they feature a body-positive, female-empowerment, LGBTQIA-friendly sex shop.

Faerie Things

The terrarium necklace pictured in my photo gallery was made by this local New Orleans artist featured at Miette.

Mad Darling Candles

I picked up one of these Eau de Laveau candles at Miette and it smells absolutely amazing. My home office space is smelling like roses & cloves and I feel fancy af.

Blaine Kern’s Mardi Gras World

This was on the top of my list of things to check out, as well as the #1 thing I recommend to people going to visit New Orleans. I came here a handful of times as a child and it’s one of the memories that has stuck with me so vividly years later.

The fact that I am older and have had some professional experience building photo props out of styrofoam and airbrushing made this visit all the more cool. Really, if you are ever in the city, check this place out. It is so neat and everything is so big.

French Quarter & Jackson Square

I went to the French Quarter and Jackson Square a couple of different days. The first was to scope things out, network with whatever artists I could, and do a little shopping and touristy stuff.

The second day that I went was a mission to cross “do some art in the French Quarter” off my bucket list. It was a rainy day, but luckily I was allowed to post up under the cover of the Gazebo Cafe in a pretty high traffic area. I got to meet some new people and even sold a few buttons. It was a wonderful full circle moment for me.

Working on commissions from Gazebo Cafe
LOCAL ARTIST LIFT-UP
Mattie Stillwell

This artist I met in Jackson Square actually had an opposite story from mine: born and raised in Texas (even lived in Austin for a time) and now lives in New Orleans. She had so many cool and colorful designs and I picked up one of her little alien drawings for my sister!

Jenelle Leigh Campion

This Jackson Square artist had a bunch of zen little skelly bois that had a really neat minimalist design. Loved her sharp contrasts, use of patterns, and incorporation of yoga moves and esoteric symbolism.

Zombieboy

I met David, who goes by the name Zombieboy, in one of the shops in along Decateur. He does a lot of cool, dark photography and back-lit spooky scenery paintings, but I ended up getting a wire-wrapped coffin nail necklace he made as a gift for my partner.

He packaged it in a bag of cleansing herbs and told me about how Death passes over wearers of the coffin nail, because he thinks they are already dead.

Michelle Davenport

This lovely lady is Neil’s cousin (if I recall correctly), who also does portraiture drag queen art and sells some really cute bath bombs and jewelry in Jackson Square and at pop-up markets around town.

Foods and Cool Dudes

A huge part of what made this homecoming so wonderful was the open arms and loving support of all my old friends there. As stated previously, I stayed with my long lost best friend from kindergarten, Jamie, and her super sweet hubby, Neil.

I had the privilege of seeing my old friend Lauren (@laurenvallehair) tie the knot with her beloved Patrick. All with the added bonus of seeing all of her family and meeting her funny little girl Audrey.

Also, I grabbed brunch with my old neighbor friend Erica and her momma and got to meet her silly little baby girl Ansley.

Things Learned & Memories Recaptured

Another neat thing was that Jamie and Neil live in the neighborhood that I grew up in, like a block from our old house. I took the morning of my last full day there walking around the places I grew up playing in.

A few memories and learnings

Justin Wilson — I used to watch so much of this guy’s cooking show on PBS. I had completely forgotten about it until I caught his red suspenders in a DJ Rhett video Jamie & Neil put on.

A Seal at the Playground — I thought I remembered a seal at the playground when I was little, but there was only the elephant (which I also remembered).

Heavy Cream in Grits — I learned about this at Jamie’s cousins house and it is so good.

A linguistic experience

There are similarities between the New Orleans dialect and Northeastern dialect, except they use an ‘uh’ sound instead of an ‘ah’ sound, e.g. fuh-evuh vs. fo-ah-evah.

Mashing a bunch of words together into one word is part of the Westbank dialect, which pops up from time-to-time in my own speech patterns when I am not paying attention.

Couillon — A dumbass. I don’t think jean shorts and shrimp boots are a requirement, but they are often tied to the couillon aesthetic.

Flapaié — The craps… I think. I can’t find anything with the appropriate spelling. Ended up being a running (har har) joke the entire trip.

Chaw! & Gaw! — General exclamatory phrase that can mean anything from Yeah! to Golly!/Gosh!

Podna — A good friend, similar to how the term “partner” is used in westerns.

Thanks for reading about my pilgrimage home!

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What’re your favorite sights or spots in New Orleans? Did you learn about anything new? Did you even read this whole thing? Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

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« Laissez le bon temps rouler ! » If you ever get the chance to visit New Orleans, go do it! It’s a really awesome city and everyone is really open and friendly.

I spent five days there and still had so many things left on my list that I wanted to do, but the time I spent there was full and awesome.

Trip to Washington DC 2018

In September, I went on a trip to Washington DC for a friend’s wedding. Because it is cheaper to buy tickets in the middle of the week, I got to spend a very full six days in the city.

My Adventures in Washington DC

So, DC is fkn wild. (inspirationally-speaking)

All the museums are free and built for actual giants. My puny human legs were not nearly enough to carry me everywhere I needed to go. The buildings are all absolute marvels of architectural and artistic achievement, built around an aesthetic lost today on capitalist materialism. I almost cried in the Library of Congress. It was this whole thing. The ceiling and walls were hand-painted with thoroughly planned, conceptual messaging surrounding enlightenment through education. I couldn’t help it. 

All around me, I heard people speaking different languages and most of the Lyft drivers were happy to tell me more about their countries of origin. Austin isn’t really a melting pot like DC is, so it was inspiring to actually be surrounded by a global community and learn through conversations.

I did some life sketching in the Reading Room at the Library of Congress, lived my Bio-Dome fantasy at the US Botanical Gardens, had my mind blown at the National Gallery of Art, embraced some natural wonders at the National Museum of Natural History, and even ate Laotian food and went on a Metro ride for the first time.

I was expecting to see and do some interesting stuff, but wasn’t ready for the amount of inspiration that was crammed through my ocular and auditory receptors.

Sharing my Sights

Here’s a bunch of photos from my visits to various spots around America’s capitol city on a quest for knowledge.

U.S. Botanic Garden

Have you ever seen Bio-Dome? Fun fact: It’s probably within the top 3 of my most-watched movies of all time. It is a really dumb Pauly Shore movie, but it’s also an environmental/life science-focused stoner flick that makes me laff.

Anyways, this botanical garden was like being in a mini bio-dome. There was a desert section and a tropical section and a medicinal herb garden and an island section with a waterfall. Rapid rates of photosynynthesis. Mini-tribal. All that. Living my dreams.

There is also a beautiful rose and outdoor garden. I took a bunch of photos for later artistic reference. Some of these also may have been taken by my friend Sarah, who was nice enough to send me her’s.

Library of Congress

I’m not going to lie; I would never have thought of coming here if it weren’t suggested. I am so glad I listened.

Imagine a building constructed mostly from natural stone, brimming with hand-carved sculptures and adorned with hand-painted murals, each one portraying symbolism entirely focused on learning and expanding consciousness.

That is the Library of Congress. It’s absolutely breathtaking and should really be experienced first-hand, but here are some pictures anyways.

National Gallery of Art

Looking at art will get you real hyped about making art. I saw work from Klimt, Warhol, Picasso, Dali and so many more.

We had to go really fast though because it was 3 hours till closing, our legs are tiny, and the National Gallery of Art building is built for giants. I don’t think I’ll ever want to go to another art museum with anyone who hasn’t studied art history, because it’s like having your own personal tour guide. Thanks again, Sarah!

I could have gotten lost in there for three more days, but glad I got to see what I did.

National Museum of Natural History

There was a narwhal exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History overlapping with my visit to DC. How could I not go? My friends Patrick and Cass came into town from Philadelphia and got to enjoy it with me.

Ocean, Narwhal, and Mammal Exhibits

I didn’t get a ton of photos from this section because I was too busy staring at everything with my mouth agape. Regardless, the narwhal exhibit was way cool and I am so happy I caught it!